A recent land purchase south of the Bitterroot Valley has helped conservation, wildlife and historical objectives.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) and the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest announced a cooperative agreement completing purchase of 320 acres of the former Holland Family Ranch west of Dillon.

In news releases this past week, officials said the acquisition provides public access to lands not previously open, helps continue a wildlife corridor between the Continental Divide and the Big Hole and Horse Prairie valleys, and protects a portion of the Nez Perce (Nee-Me-Poo) National Historic Trail.

Blake Henning of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation said, "We appreciate the Holland family for reaching out to us to help conserve and permanently protect this key stretch of habitat." Besides being a corridor for mule deer, moose, and black bears, the area is used by elk as a calving ground.

The RMEF conveyed the tract to the U.S. Forest Service, with other funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), Cinnabar Foundation and the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust.

Historically, the land includes a High Potential route Segment of the Nee-Me-Poo National Historic Trail. That route runs from Oregon to Chinook, Montana - about 1,700 miles - including the Big Hole National Battlefield.

Nez Perce Cultural Director Nakia Williamson said, "Following the bloody battle at Big Hole the Niimiipuu (Nez Perce) families ... hurried south... and several died along this section of this sacred trail."

The High Divide Collaborative, which is a collection of agencies, landowners and specialists, was involved in the process. The collaborative is working to protect landscape integrity, protect wildlife habitat and increase recreational opportunities.

Regional Forester Leanne Marten said, "We are pleased that this property ... is now in the public trust for future generations to visit and reflect on the history and culture of all Americans."